Sheffield United: '˜After six seasons in League One, Blades fans care more about results than performances'
It was a victory for both the footballers and the statisticians of Sheffield United on Tuesday night as Chris Wilder's side took another step towards promotion from League One at long last.
The 4-2 success at Swindon, courtesy of goals from Caolan Lavery, Kieron Freeman, Jay O’Shea and Paul Coutts (penalty), was United’s 1,889th in league competition - mirroring, of course, the year of their formation.
It was a stat that went down well amongst United’s fanbase but they have a lot to cheer about lately.
Tuesday’s win was their tenth away from home this season, and they’ve scored 41 goals on the road - one shy of their all-time record, set in 1956/57.
And Wilder’s class of 16/17 still have four away games left. After six, largely-stricken seasons in League One exile, many are finally starting to believe that this is the year.
“It’s all to play for and every club that we play will be fighting for its life,” Wilder said.
“Apart from two or three, they’ve all got everything to fight for. They all become important performances and big wins. The reception the players got at the end, you can see that the fans aren’t bothered about the tightness of the game after us being in this division for six seasons.
“They are more bothered about the result.”
With former pacesetters Scunthorpe seemingly intent on throwing away their formerly advantageous position - Tuesday’s victory over Rochdale was their first in ten games, a run which included six defeats - automatic promotion seems increasingly to be a three-way shoot-out for two spots.
And with rivals Bolton and Fleetwood both winning on Tuesday, there will have been more than a few nerves calmed when O’Shea and Coutts sealed victory for United after Swindon had earlier recovered from 2-0 down to level at 2-2.
“People will say we’ve taken it for granted and say we’ve come out second half and been sloppy. I think that’s rubbish,” Wilder added.
“That’s the nature of this competition. Nothing is a given. It’s not the way that size, stature and league positions work. No-one says ‘there you go, it’s three points’.
“I thought our style was good first half and sometimes, you’ve just got to give credit to the opposition. If one of their lads picks up the ball and smashes it home from 30 or 35 yards, you’ve got to say that’s alright.
Striker Caolan Lavery, meanwhile, should be fit for Saturday’s clash with Charlton at Bramall Lane after Wilder revealed his withdrawl at Swindon was merely a precaution.
“It wasn’t worth putting him out for the season,” Wilder said.
“Caolan did well at the top of the pitch, he did his bit and he’ll be fine. It disrupted us a bit when he came off. He had a tight glute, a tight hamstring at half time and we tried to loosen it up but he took his goal well.
“We wanted to play with pace because we knew they would take chances. Jay did well and took his goal well too. “You have to plot your way through games sometimes and we definitely had to do that at Swindon.”